People become homeless for lots of reasons, and often it's the accumulation of multiple, constant pressures that act in unison to cause homelessness. Our guests have faced challenges like the loss of a job, domestic violence, mental illness, release from the care system with few resources, breakdown of a relationship and the death of a partner or parent -- to name just a few. Anyone faced with a set-back can stumble; a series of mishaps can cause a life to unravel.  

On top of this, the stock of affordable housing is dwindling and the property market in London remains prohibitively high for many. With cuts to benefits and social housing, more and more people are finding themselves unable to make ends meet.


8,855 people were recorded as sleeping rough at least once on London's streets in 2018/2019 according to data from the Greater London Authority's Chain database, which records rough sleepers in London seen by outreach workers. This number is 18% higher than the previous year, indicating rough sleeping is on the rise.

Most recently, during the period April - June 2020 alone outreach teams recorded 4,227 individuals sleeping rough in the capital. This is a 33% increase on the total figure for April - June 2019.

While the statistics are widely acknowledged to be under-representing the true scale of rough sleeping (see "Thousands not counted in rough sleeping report"), they do reflect general trends. According to the Trust for London, the rough sleeping count is more than double what it was a decade ago.

We know the official rough sleeping count is just the tip of the iceberg. Those staying in shelters and hostels are not included. Nor are the people sleep on night buses, stay out of sight, or rove from one couch to another.

Only about 50% of those who turn to us have been previously recorded as a verified rough sleepers in the Chain database, so we can only estimate the true number of those in desperate need of emergency shelter is much greater.

The causes of homelessness have changed since this rise began a decade ago. When people turn to their local London council for help, they are increasingly citing an end to their private tenancy as the cause. After a short-lease on a flat has ended, the landlord can increase the rent, and if the tenant can no longer afford the new terms (as is increasingly the case), the individual or family must leave. The lack of alternative affordable housing options is at the heart of much of the rise in homelessness across the UK, but especially in London.

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has the largest statistical gap between the richest and poorest residents in all of London. Demand for our services continues to grow.

Economic reasons or the lack of affordable housing as a reason for homelessness in rich areas is shameful. But ending homelessness is not just a matter of justice and social cohesion.

Homelessness also adds to the strain on the medical system. We know homelessness can be devastating to someone's ability to maintain their physical and mental health. The average age of death of a homeless man in London is 47, around 30 years below the figure for the population as a whole. For women, it is 43.

There is hope

While the data is stark and the human experiences are often heartbreaking, we do have a formula that offers hope. 

Read the stories of some of our guests.

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